Renewing the heart has two connected goals, to renew the hearts of believers and renew the heart of churches. In addition to the weekday thoughts on Romans, once every weekend, I will be posting a excerpt regarding church health. This is the first one that I posted last week. The next will come out next weekend.
I was walking on the beach yesterday and realized it was low tide. One thing about the beach, the tide changes and is cyclical. Sometimes the water is up and sometimes low. Sand beneath the water is also changing. It seems to me that there are also cycles in the life of the church. I feel that it is time to think about a different cycle. A cycle where we focus on the health of the church much more than the programs that the church should be doing to experience growth.
Consider the Church at Ephesus mentioned in the book of Revelation. This was a church that in many ways, looked like a stellar example of what church should be. They labored in good works, they endured hardships patiently, did not put up with sin in the church and insisted on pure doctrine. However, the Lord said about this church, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4, ESV) There was something vital missing in this church that seemed to do everything right. It was an issue of the heart. They lost their first love. The Lord exhorts them to repent and do the things they did at first or He would remove their lampstand from its place. They would lose the true light, the manifest presence of Christ in their midst and slowly fall and cease to exist. Historically, this is exactly what happened.
“The church continued and was later the scene of a major church council, but after the 5th century both the church and the city declined. The immediate area has been uninhabited since the 14th century.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol2, Pg 934) This loss of first love plagues many of the churches we see today. These churches experience decline, because their passion is not for the Lord per-say. It is a matter of the heart of the church.
Renewing the Heart is about helping churches that have lost their way or have become discouraged, even though they are seemingly doing all the right things. I have heard pastors say, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works.” They are constantly feeling pressure to produce growth and seeing none get discouraged. Perhaps the problem is not in what they are doing, but truly an issue of the heart of the church. I hope that by focusing the church to renew the heart, the churches will be reenergized and experience the hope and joy that perhaps has disappeared.